Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s Nominee Said Catholics Oppose Abortion Because They Like Rape

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Aug 29, 2019   |   2:07PM   |   Washington, DC

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is facing more criticism this week because of one of his nominee’s derogatory comments toward Catholics, Republican women and others.

Gail Gordon Donegan, appointed this month to the Virginia Council on Women, once made fun of Catholic priests by suggesting that they oppose abortions because they want to rape children.

“Abortion is morally indefensible to Catholic priests bcuz it results in fewer children to rape,” she wrote on Twitter, according to an investigation by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Donegan also called Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, a pro-life Republican from Virginia, a “s—head” in 2017 and former pro-life Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota, a “dumb b—-” in 2011, according to the report.

The Catholic bishops in Virginia said Donegan’s comments should disqualify her from serving in a government leadership role, The Roanoke Times reports.

“[She] has demonstrated a pattern of ridiculing Catholic beliefs and employing stereotypes designed to malign people of faith. Had these comments been directed toward any other group of persons, they would have disqualified her from this role,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond said Tuesday in a statement.

On Wednesday, Donegan announced her resignation from the committee, according to the Friendly Atheist blog. Though she did apologize, she also claimed to be a victim of the people who exposed her horrendous comments. She argued that her tweets were satire.

“I recognize that some of the jokes I told crossed the line, and I apologize to those who were hurt by them,” Donegan said. “Because of my recent advocacy, a small group decided to target the worst of my tens of thousands of tweets and paint a false picture of who I am. … This incident is just another chapter in the bullying that women activists face every day on social media.”

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She also threatened to sue the people who exposed her, though even her sympathizers questioned what she would sue for.

“It’s not a crime to draw attention to someone’s old tweets (even if it’s done in bad faith and those tweets are out of context),” the Friendly Atheist blogger wrote.

Northam, perhaps unsurprisingly, defended Donegan throughout the controversy. The Democratic governor is the same politician who tried to justify infanticide earlier this year and, later, was linked to racist photos in his medical school yearbook. Northam, however, refused to resign.

Here’s more from the Times:

A Times-Dispatch review of her public social media history showed a history of attacks on other people as well as jokes and statements about Catholics. Both of Virginia’s Catholic bishops on Tuesday urged Catholics in Virginia to call the governor’s office .

Northam’s office initially defended Donegan, saying that while the governor did not condone her language, she had worked for years on women’s issues in Virginia.

Years ago, when Northam was the Virginia lieutenant governor, he also came under fire for refusing to shake the hand of an African American conservative man during a TV debate.

The latest situation just adds to Northam’s deeply troubling record.

These are some of the tweets that Donegan has written since 2009, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

  • in 2016 tweeted to Cornel West and in 2017 to then Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-10th, of Northern Virginia, calling them “s—head.”
  • made jokes about Catholic priests being pedophiles. In 2010, Donegan wrote: “Abortion is morally indefensible to Catholic priests bcuz it results in fewer children to rape.”
  • Donegan wrote in 2010: “Saw a bumper sticker: ‘You can’t be both Catholic & Pro-Choice.’ Add: You can be a pedophile though!”
  • In response to a 2011 news story about Catholics in New York being subjected to hepatitis A by taking Communion on Christmas, Donegan wrote “LOLz.”
  • tweeted a joke in 2013 to John Whitbeck, then-chairman of the 10th District Republican Committee, and to Ken Cuccinelli, then the Republican nominee for governor: “Dr, lawyer & priest on Titantic [sic]. Doc: save the children! lawyer: f— the children! Priest: Is there time?” Donegan made that same joke again on Twitter in 2018 and called it “my fave joke.”
  • in 2011 called then-U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, a “dumb b—-.”

Northam appointed Donegan to the committee on Aug. 16.